OUR OPINION

When did we become the enemy?

Patriot Act II guts everything on which the country was founded

I keep on thinking of Charles Dickens’s novel of the French Revolution, “A Tale of Two Cities,” and its first lines: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...”
Here in Skagway as we move into the summer months and all its beauty and all its bustle, for us it’s a good time. But out there, down in the Lower 48, in the South, Outside, things are unraveling. Most notably, our civil rights.
There are proposed changes to the Patriot Act, which was passed after Sept. 11, and gave the federal government greater power to spy on and detain suspected terrorists.
But the new changes put all of us at risk.
• If signed into law, the bill would authorize the government to initiate wiretaps and other electronic surveillance on individuals with no ties to foreign governments or terrorist groups.
• Administrative subpoenas would be expanded to areas governed by grand jury rules and court supervision.
• No Freedom of Information Act information would be obtained on detainees unless the need is proven before a judge.
• The government could secretly submit any evidence it wishes and the defendant would not have to be notified.
• DNA samples could be obtained without an individual’s consent.
Bearing false witness would no longer merit even a second glance under this act because immunity would be granted to businesses and personnel who provide information to the government in terrorism investigations, even if a report was false.
But most frightening of all is that even a native-born American could be stripped of citizenship if they provide support to an organization they may not realize is classified as a terrorist organization.
Even our Representative in Congress, Don Young, certainly not known for his liberal leanings, has characterized the Patriot ACT as “the worst act we ever passed.”
State Reps. John Coghill of North Pole and David Guttenberg of Fairbanks have sponsored a resolution in the House calling on President George W. Bush and other federal officials to ensure that Congress reviews the act to make sure the act does not violate rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
So far, Juneau, Fairbanks, Gustavus, Kenai, and North Pole have passed similar resolutions, as have 90 other communities across the country.
Councilmember Mike Catsi will be offering a similar resolution to the City Council at its next meeting on June 5.
Please contact Councilmembers and make your voice heard on this issue. It’s time. –DL

GUEST COMMENTARY

To those who do not wish to live in ‘Ferryland’...

In the ongoing debate about the prospective road it appears there are people here at home who are no more conscious of their working environment (subtitle: are no smarter than) those New Yorkers of Juneau, who are supposed to be forgiven for not knowing where they are.
Does no one notice that this 100-mile stretch will be run entirely along the same ridgeline where our own one-point crossing, the White Pass, is often closed for days at a time not just for avalanches but because you can’t see the road, or a rig 20 feet away coming right at you? That because of global warming, which isn’t happening, these recent layers of thin wet ice which are more treacherous than the thick, old hard-frozen layers of yore may become the norm? Has anyone calculated how much gravel it will take to secure this road and where it is going to come from? – and forgotten that the thousands of miles of winter roads in north B.C., the Yukon, and Interior Alaska are never graveled because it is fiscally and physically impossible? And this in return will require vastly increased resources in Search and Rescue and emergency evacuation where helicopters will be out of the question. Since it is often possible to fly and always possible to ferry when it isn’t possible to see patootie on the ridge top, it is much more likely our access and emergency needs will be reduced rather than increased with the end of the ferry and cutback of flights, and large numbers of people may be backed up at each end for days at a time.
As one of the hardworking, tax paying residents of Dyea who was told six months ago that our daily drive would become a slalom slide to death or disability and be damned to us, because the state could not afford to keep up a lousy 10 miles, I already know what that Juneau road will do to the safety of Alaskans who will never set wheel on it.
The last time I drove either the Parks or Glenn Highways, I perceived no enthusiasm on the part of Anchorage for maintaining its already existing safety valves. And has anyone driven the Haul Road lately – support line for the mainstay of Alaska’s welfare?
Neither fiscally, economically, socially, nor physically can this community or this state afford that road – which will simply not be open for much of the crucial time of the year. It is already clear that it will be the Kennicott of civil engineering.
So our ferries are “aging and inefficient?” Well, so am I, but I still get the job done. Are we supposed to play the game of denying that the youngest of them, that boatbuilders’ mooncalf, was launched inefficient? That the same flatland carpetbaggers who approved the design of that white zeuglodon will set the smarts standards for planning and maintenance of this road? A year ago I rode the Tustemena, one of the oldest in the fleet, down the peninsula to the Aleutians, the worst waters of our system, and it was still equal to all its unusual demands – a turntable on the car deck safe enough for the passengers to use, and a dining room still requiring a waitress service – a delightful contrast to the Kennicott mess.
The ferries I personally travel in B.C., Washington state, Quebec, New Foundland, Scotland, the Caribbean, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, French Polynesia, and New Zealand are kept functioning uncomplainingly whatever their age, and are everywhere irreplaceable.
Southeast Alaska, classically known as Tlinkitania and colonially as New Cornwall and New Norfolk, is a discrete territory determined by its archipelagic, seagoing lines of communication and activities. Like the majority of communities in Alaska, ours have no road access, and without regard to the greater majority, never will. Skagway, Haines and Hyder are the exceptions in being hooked up to road systems of such remote contiguity that only our tide tables connect us. Besides Juneau, the three other mainland settlements – Excursion Inlet, Gustavus and Yakutat – don’t have a prayer.
Bringing our communities together requires constantly improving use of our waterways. Our ferries plow them relentlessly without regard to fogs, winds or flotsam. Southeasterners hit the ground running with the roll of the ocean beneath their feet. Those who do not wish to live in Ferryland have a whole solid continent to move to. Godspeed and good riddance.
Disgustedly Yours,
Scott Home
P.S. Cut the crap. Is the Klondike Highway pass higher than the railroad’s ? Then name it “The Great White Pass.”